So now we know – 4 September 2019

Scamp went to see the nurse today, but the news was not what she expected.

We sat about in the morning watching the rain, but our minds were on tomorrow and the rail journey south. Little did we know. Scamp was determined to go to the new M&S shop and we did go along with half of Cumbersheugh. Yes, it looks good, but contrary to predictions it doesn’t have a café, at least not yet. Got a whole bundle of stuff. Some for today, some for tomorrow and some to come back to. Got to the tills just as St Mo’s school decanted all their pupils into the shop. Most were directed to the self-service tills, some waited in the normal tills and the rest shop-lifted. Back home we had lunch and then waited until the big hand was at the 6 and the little hand was halfway between the 2 and the 3, then we went up to the doc’s.

Scamp was in with the nurse for a lot longer than I’d thought, but then I heard her voice saying ‘Thanks’. The half smile on her face told me it wasn’t what we’d expected. The nurse had immediately confirmed it wasn’t insect bites, it was Herpes zoster AKA Shingles. Now it all made sense. The pain, the itch, the cluster of ‘bites’ that was actually a rash. Yes, she was past the infectious stage but we weren’t sure now whether to go or not. I was going to drive to the butchers for some stewing steak and a mutton pie to take down south, so that would give us both thinking time. Scamp was off into the Co-op to get a cake for tonight’s pudding (sponge with our stewed apples and custard).

When we met up again in the car, she’d decided to wait and see what Hazy said when we could speak to her. We weren’t sure if I was clear of any infection yet, so all three of us reluctantly agreed that it would be best to postpone the visit. Not the result we wanted, but I was relieved that Scamp wouldn’t have to endure a four hour train journey with not even a free bottle of wine to take away the aches and itches. Anyway, it wasn’t cancelled, just postponed.

We thought we’d just have to bear the brunt of the loss of the train fare, but no! Scamp phoned the help line at Trainline and managed to find a sympathetic ear at the other end in Sam, who gave her an address to send our tickets to and told us that in this case she’d get a full refund. Y’see, there are good people out there.

The sun had come out for a while, but by then it had gone back behind the clouds again and the rain was back. I resigned myself to the fact that I wasn’t going to get out to take any photos today. That’s why I’ve resorted to ‘cut flowers’ again. Hopefully the last of this month. It’s a close-up of a Chrysanthemum flower that made PoD.

Tomorrow we’re planning to take the bus in to Glasgow to ‘A Play, A Pie and A Pint’ in Òran Mór.

A sign of things to come perhaps – 3 September 2019

Today the Red Juke was going in for service and I had a courtesy car booked and it was a surprise!

Drove to Stirling in the morning and was passing the ‘New Shops’ just around 9.30am. The new M&S food store was opening at 10am and the crowds, half an hour before it opened were a very, very long snaking queue along the shop frontage, along part of the car park and down the side of the building. At a guess, I’d say between 500 and 700 people were standing in the rain hoping for one of the Golden Tickets that would give them up to £200 worth of shopping vouchers and a bad dose of the flu in to the bargain. I phoned Scamp to warn her that she was too late already. She just laughed

I had to wait half an hour for the courtesy car to be delivered, but when it arrived it was a ’19 plate Micra. Then the service manager dropped the bombshell. It was also an Automatic. I’ve only rarely been in an automatic car and certainly never driven one. How was I going to get this home? Luckily the lady was very positive about it and explained quietly how it worked and drove me round the block. She then offered to sit with me to allow me to get used to driving it round the block. Oh dear I must have looked terrified, but I took her up on her offer anyway. Then it was time for me to ‘go solo’. Despite knowing that there was no gearstick, I still tried to change up and down with the drive selector for the first few roundabouts, then concentrated a bit more and found it was quite a natural way to drive. When I got it home, I took Scamp out for a drive, but she refused to have a go. It’s amazing how quickly you adapt to a completely new driving style. By the time I was taking it back, it was as natural as any other car I’ve driven.

When I got to the garage the same lady came to deal with me and all I said was “Well, that was a lovely car.” I didn’t add “I want one.”, but she knew that was in my head. However, outside was a shiny clean Red Juke that will need two new front tyres this year, so I put the thoughts of an Automatic Micra to the back of my mind for now, paid for my day’s insurance and left with a smile on my face. Western Nissan aren’t so bad after all.

The drive back home took almost twice as long as going, because everyone in Central Scotland seemed to want to go the same way. I was hungry and was looking forward to Scamp’s Prawn Stir Fry for dinner, otherwise I’d have taken it for a run away from the motorway bizz to test out the updated sat nav card they’d plugged in as part of the service. Maybe we’ll get a chance to try it out tomorrow.

PoD was a shot of the last of Scamp’s sweet peas standing up to the incessant rain today. We were promised some sun. We got rain instead.

No dancing tomorrow because Scamp has an appointment with the doc to check out the insect bites she’s got, and no other plans. No dancing at night either because Jamie the Salsa teacher won’t be there. Even worse, he won’t be there next week either.

Another roaster – 25 August 2019

It was a beautiful morning. Today was set to be another hot one.

Scamp wanted to go looking for plants today to bring some new colour to the garden. We headed off to Torwood to see what they could offer. As there was a 20% reduction on all plants, we expected there to be a big queue, but surprisingly the carpark was only half full. Grabbed a bundle of flowering plants and also some curly kale plus some leeks. Just something to fill up the raised bed.

Back home and after the usual Sunday fried lunch I had a bit of a longer snooze than I’d anticipated while Scamp planted out her flowers, then sat and read in the garden. I don’t know how she can do it with the noisy neighbours, their adult kids, plus the grand weans shouting at each other. I think some of them must be deaf. That’s why they keep shouting instead of conducting a normal conversation.

When I woke I realised I still hadn’t a firm favourite for PoD, so I put a pair of shorts on and went over to St Mo’s to see what was what. Spotted a Painted Lady right away, feeding on a scabious flower. Banged a few shots of that into the E-M1. Got a few shots of a dragonfly too, but it was really far away across the bog and I wasn’t going wading in St Mo’s bog. You never know what’s under your feet there. Well, you do know, and that’s worse than not knowing.

That sort of summed up Sunday. Just another hot day, but finally I have a picture of a Painted Lady to present to the waiting public.

Tomorrow Scamp’s off with the Witches to Glasgow and I’m off the leash for a few hours.

Dancing (x1)

Back in the old routine, almost.

Down at Blackfriars for some new moves in all three dance styles. The jive one was fairly easy and I think I can remember it quite well because it was a variation on a move we did a long while ago, The Boston Hitch. Waltz move was very stylish, but doesn’t have a name yet. Neither did the Quickstep move and it was the most challenging of them all. Overall, it was a successful hour and we learned more about dance craft from Michael. Coffee then home in the rain.

The rain didn’t go off when we got home, it just kept going and going. Eventually I gave in and went for a walk over to St Mo’s in the rain. Got a few shots, but nothing special. My favourite, and therefore PoD was my alliterative lunch Corned beef and coffee from a cat cup. It was an espresso cup that Scamp bought me yesterday in Perth. I thought at first it would be too small to fit under the portafilter, but it did just fine. A perfect size.

No dancing tonight as Jamie Gal is off somewhere important again. Dinner was mince ’n’ tatties for me and rats ’n’ tatties for Scamp. I expect she’ll have the remainder for lunch tomorrow and I’m hoping to have the remaining mince with an egg cracked into it and poached in the gravy. A Larky special!

No other plans for tomorrow. It looks like more rain.

Glasses, beasties and a tick – 19 August 2019

Out in the morning to Larky to get my new glasses which are helping me to write this blog post.

Not a lot else to report. Rain showers threatening all day, but not quite materialising. Finally went out for a walk along the canal and got some interesting photos of beasties. Lots and lots of Peacock butterflies and also a couple of Painted Ladies, but none that wanted to linger long enough to get their photos taken.

No dancing tonight because Jamie G is off working somewhere, so it was a more leisurely dinner. Prawn & Pea Risotto made with our own peas, but not home grown prawns. Added a small dollop of Mascarpone at the end instead of butter and it seemed to taste quite good.

After a snooze on the couch I discovered the tiny wee tick on my upper arm. Tiniest wee tick I’ve seen. It’s gone now, but the nip lingers on.

PoD was a hover fly giving itself a good scratch on a leaf.

Tomorrow we may go to Perth.

Split – Almost a dolphin – 13 August 2019

Because of our late departure from Venice and because, Cap’n Bob said, of traffic on the sea lane from Venice to Split, we were late arriving in Split. The sea was calm, almost flat calm and … was that a dolphin just breaking surface?

I got a lovely shot of where the dolphin had been, and maybe just the ghost of a grey object below the water, but it wasn’t until we were home that we found Scamp had actually captured one of the mammals with it’s fin just breaking the surface. A lucky shot, but luckys count.

We’d been to Split before and weren’t impressed. If you follow Game of Thrones, there are places you’d love here, be as we hadn’t ever watched a whole episode, it was just another ferry port to us. However as a preparation I’d watched a short YouTube video about the town and found that we’d missed the main part of the town, the new part, not the old town. We were berthed at the very edge of the dockside and had miles to walk in to town. Not that it mattered and we had all day to pass in this place and it was the last port on the trip, so we’d make the most of it and the heat. I found a tea shop, i.e. a shop that sold dry tea leaves. Got some Assam and some fruit teas too. Found some impressive looking wide piazzas and squares also an old elegant looking opera house. Lots of shops and then we were in to the old town with its teacup water fountain. The forum was mobbed. It seemed that everyone had decided to descend on it today. Maybe it’s like that every day. It looked very grand and the two punters dressed up as Roman centurions were doing a roaring trade fleecing the punters for €5 a time to get their photos taken with them. Walked through an old market area, had a beer in a dockside cafe and then back to the ship.

Spent the afternoon lounging on the balcony watching a group of boys daring each other to jump from higher and higher places on the cliffs into the sea. That and watching another group swimming with two dogs that seemed inexhaustible climbing on rocks and swimming. I must admit I was tempted to go for a swim myself. The water looked a beautiful green-blue colour. However, I left it too late and then it was time to leave Split for the long run down the Adriatic into the Mediterranean and on to Malta.

One final dinner in Cafe Jardin, but no dancing tonight. Already our thoughts were turning to the packing we’d have to start tomorrow, but not before we had a G&T on the balcony and watched the stars.

PoD was the Forum filled with people. Is this how it would have looked in Roman times? Probably something similar.

Tomorrow is a final sea day.

Venice – Breakfast on the balcony – 12 August 2019

Today was Venice and it was Scamp’s idea that brought breakfast to the balcony.

You get so used to the ridiculously expensive ‘opportunities’ from P&O, but not solely from them, others do it too. A couple of times we’ve had cards through the cabin door, or waiting on the bed telling us that we can have champagne breakfast delivered to our cabin for only £25 pp. They just become part of the background ‘noise’, simply ignored. Then you realise that you’re on your holidays and simple luxuries are there to be had at no extra cost. So it was that, on Scamp suggestion, we order a ‘normal’ breakfast to be delivered to our cabin for the sail in to Venice. Surely one of the great arrivals of the trip. We sat in comfort watching Venice slide past while we enjoyed our orange juice, cereal and pastry!

We’ve joined the crowd on deck on a couple of occasions watching the sail in and listening to the commentary, but it’s no fun trying to see over the heads of the three layers of people who were probably up at 5am staking their claim to an area of the ships rail. So much better to be sitting on your own balcony and watching without having to crowd with the great unwashed! The sail in took about an hour and a half and was orchestrated by two tugs at the front and one tug at the back of the ship just to make sure that no boats got crushed this time. It seems that this might be one of the last times a cruise ship will be allowed to sail past St Mark’s Square. Plans are afoot for a cruise terminal outside the city.

After our al fresco breakfast and the chance to watch this city slide past our balcony we joined the queue on the dockside for the water bus to take us to St Mark’s Square and Venice proper. The ten minute journey took us to just outside the square and dropped us in the University area. A short walk and there we were with the rest of the tourists. After a few wrong turns we found the canal side cafe that has become a traditional morning coffee and cannoli stopping point for us. Since we had only had a rudimentary breakfast we added a small pizza each to the menu and I had a Salt Beer which was very good. More like ‘heavy’ than lager.

Wandered around some more and Scamp got a bead for her Pandora bracelet. I saw some cute little goldfish bowls complete with goldfish, made entirely from glass. They were in varying prices, ranging from €30 to €10 the further you went from St Mark’s. Didn’t get one though. Saw a selection of bow ties too on the Rialto, but decided I could probably make one for a fraction of the price. Scamp liked a set of giraffes and I would have chosen two glass cats in a posh shop in the square, but there were no prices displayed! I think my favourite was a silk shirt for a ‘Special Price’ of €340 with a matching tie €50. I got neither, of course.

Got the water taxi back to the ship just as it was beginning to rain, another tradition in Venice. Due to sail at 5.30, but waited for over an hour to get clearance from the port authority and for the tugs to arrive so we could leave Venice for Split. Because we were so late leaving, the sail out wasn’t as dramatic as the sail in, but we sat there and watched it all flow past anyway.

PoD is a shot of a man collecting shellfish from the sandbanks at the start of the sail in. Just imagine as you go to work tomorrow that this bloke probably does this every day. Beautiful scenery, but backbreaking work.

Tomorrow it’s Split in Croatia. The last port on the cruise before Valletta in Malta.

Hvar – Pine trees, Cicadas and Staropramen – 11 August 2019

The only port where we had to use the tender.

If there’s one thing P&O are good at, it’s organising. Waited in a queue to collect our ticket for the tender which was really one of the lifeboats. About 15 minutes later we were called to board the Skylark. Just a ten minute jaunt to the harbour.

We walked around the bay and took a detour up through a sort of park with Corsican pines growing everywhere. We could smell the pine resin blowing in the breeze. We also found a Cicada on one of the trees, initially pointed out by an American man. You always hear cicadas in warm climates, but it’s rare to see one.

Walked on and found a posh hotel with a low level infinity pool. Turned back at this point and walked back by a lower path. Stopped at a cafe and had a bottle of Staropramen each, then a coffee. Nice wee place where you can watch the hundreds of wee boats in the harbour alongside enormous yachts. We watched a dog jump off a boat and paddle to the shore, almost beating the couple who were rowing to the shore from the boat. I’m guessing it was too warm to be a guard dog today. We got free WiFi at the cafe too. Not many places seem to have free WiFi these days, or at least I didn’t find any.

Back at the ship we saw the polis in a speed boat huckle some poor punter and his pals. At first we thought he’d been exceeding the speed limit in the bay, but it began to look a bit more serious and they weren’t for letting them go again. Never found the reason, but it certainly spoiled someone’s Sunday.

We decided to try dancing again because Roy & Andrea (the Lovely Jubbly dance teachers) had the night off and one of the entertainment team was playing the tunes. We asked for Desposito and danced a fairly decent Salsa to it. The girl playing the music complemented us on our Armography. I’m guessing it was a complement anyway! Lovely and Jubbly were watching too, but didn’t say much. I think it was a case of “We are not amused.”

PoD was the view from the cafe.

Things I remember about the pretty little town of Hvar:
You must not go topless in the town. That rule applies to both sexes.
The swimming dog
The smell of the pine resin
The Cicada
The old lumpy tree who’s trunk was held up with a wooden post.

It’s a nice quiet looking town and we’d go back there if we got the chance. However, not tomorrow, because that’s Venice!

Dubrovnik – Astronauts, Bungee Jumping and Christina O – 10 August 2019

Arrived in Dubrovnik to find that we were berthed under the enormous bridge, not right under because we wouldn’t fit!

Breakfast on the upper deck just to make the most of another glorious day with wall to wall sunshine.

Took the shuttle bus in to town and met the most horrendous traffic jam. Only found out later that there had been two car accidents on the way to the old town, which partly explained the jam. Also it was Sunday and all the Croatians were converging on Dubrovnik.

Walked in to the old town and decided that £25 to walk the walls in the already blazing heat wasn’t going to happen. We’d walked the walls before and didn’t really feel the need to do it again. Maybe if they’d paid us the £25 we might have thought about it, but only maybe. We didn’t spend too long in the old town. Just long enough to see the statue of the man with the golden nose (?) and to have a drink by the harbour, then it was back to the long, long queue for the bus back to the ship. By long, long I really mean long, (x25) long queue. It seemed to stretch halfway back to the ship. I took the executive decision and stopped a taxi. €14 to the cruise terminal. Sounded good, then an American girl asked if she could share the taxi with us. We said ok, because it was a set price fare. She asked if she could contribute to the fare, but we had it all in hand, so she got a free ride to the cruise terminal which is also the ferry terminal. She got the free ride and we got to be good Samaritans. Ten minutes we were getting on the ship.

We’d seen the stylish boat moored next to ours and Scamp was the one who looked it up on her phone. It was called the Christina O and had originally been owned by Aristotle Onassis. It was named after his daughter. It’s had a chequered history which makes interesting reading. While we were admiring it from the balcony, its entire crew appeared and lined up on the deck. We were going out for a walk anyway, honest, so we did a slow walk past the yacht to see who of the great and the good got out of a black people carrier and after shaking hands with the crew, climbed the steps into the luxury that €630,000 per week to hire can give you. We walked on and bought a bottle of water at the ferry shop.

When we came back, I went for a snooze while Scamp went and read for a while on deck. She came back and told me there were people bungee jumping from the bridge. I took my camera and went to see what I could see. Luckily for me one bloke was getting ready to launch himself into oblivion. Got the camera ready and just as he jumped the viewfinder went black. The battery was dead. Just my luck. However I did watch this bloke plummet down until he almost touched the water 49m below. Rather him than me.

At dinner we were all discussing what we did in the real world. One wee girl of about 6 or 7 asked the man sitting across from her what he did. He said he was an astronaut. I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on her face, or the disappointment when he started to laugh and told her he was just joking.

PoD was an island we saw as we were sailing away from Dubrovnik. It looked like something from a Peter Jackson film.

Tomorrow we’re going to be in Hvar, also in Croatia.

At Sea – Lovely Jubbly – 9 August 2019

A sea day again.

At lunchtime we got to test out the skills of the new dance teachers. What could they teach us. They had big boots to fill. First off, they were English and had a totally different style. The bloke spoke very fast and gave the impression of being a bit nervous. The woman was much more self-assured and was obviously the brains of the operation. He did the talking, she did the thinking. They taught us the Social Foxtrot which we’d learned a long number of years ago and for some reason it had stuck in my mind. Something few dance steps do, so it was either memorable or simple! We didn’t go in the afternoon, already missing the dry humour of Stuart and Jane! Also the bloke’s constant repetition of “Lovely Jubbly” was becoming irritating.

Although there’s usually a lot to do on sea days, there’s not a lot to photograph. So, today’s PoD was a Royal Caribbean ship following us for a while.

Dinner was in the ‘council’ restaurant and although it was a ‘black tie’ affair with everyone dressed up, we had to wait for about half an hour for a table and then service was extra slow. Something is wrong with P&O. We think they have cut the staff and it’s beginning to cause problems. Lots of people are complaining about the time it takes to serve food. Lots of people are complaining about the difficulty in getting drinks in the bars, because waiter don’t seem to be interested in serving. Scamp thinks it’s linked to the drinks packages they sell. If they’ve sold a drinks package, the company already has your money in the bank, so they don’t need to work trying to sell you drinks. Makes sense. Also people are complaining about grumpy looking waiters and workers on the ship. If P&O are indeed cutting staff, then the remaining staff need to work longer hours for presumably the same wages. That leads to an unhappy workforce and an unhappy customer base. It’s a downward slope from there.

We danced for a while at night, but it wasn’t the same atmosphere and not the same music either. It sounded to me like midi tracks, or ‘Elevator Music’ as Scamp described it.

Never mind, tomorrow we’re in Dubrovnik.